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December 24th 2016, marks the one year anniversary of two Burmese men, Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin being sentenced to death for the murders of British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.
Controversy and scepticism of the Burmese men’s guilt has surrounded this case from day one. The reasons for the doubts stemmed from issues such as the early police investigation pointing towards a local family of influence on the island, the Burmese men having no motive to commit such a hideous crimes and having no prior criminal record. Many doubted David Miller’s injuries could have been caused by the ‘murder weapon’ a hoe, and no weapon that could have caused his injuries was ever found or used in evidence. Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo are by no means the first Burmese men used as scapegoats in Thailand and quite why the two men would stick around on an island they had endless opportunity to leave during the two weeks prior to their arrest, if they had committed the crimes, is something nobody has been able to fathom. However, despite the misgivings of the general public on the 24th of December 2015 the two men were both sentenced to death.
The shock convictions caused controversy and scepticism of the defence team, who lost a case, which on paper at least, seemed impossible to lose. Questions were being asked about what the considerable publicly donated funds were spent on and despite calls for transparency no accounts were every produced by Andy Hall, the self-appointed front man of the case or the legal team.
Pre appeal, Andy Hall reassured the world via a post on his Facebook page that the defence team were putting together a good case under the expert guidance of a retired but distinguished Australian Barrister Robert Holmes.
However after Robert Holmes received $5000 Aus from Ian Yarwood, an Australian Solicitor post-verdict, in order to have a complaint letter written by the boys defence team to BLQS(Bureau of Laboratory Quality Standards), he disappeared along with the money. Efforts have since been made to try to locate Robert Holmes in both Thailand and Phnom Penh Cambodia but so far he has not been found. What has been found is that far from being a distinguished Barrister, Robert Holmes is in fact a disgraced barrister who served a prison sentence in the 90’s for fraud. Questions are now being asked as to why Robert Holmes, now known to be a notorious Australian con man, was ever allowed to be involved with a case where the lives of the Burmese men were at stake. It is also unclear as to whether Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were aware their legal team was being advised by a man with a criminal past.
Andy Hall, after fighting his own legal battles in Thailand and being found guilty of computer crimes and defamation against the Natural Fruit Company, also left Thailand and is currently residing in France from where he posts poems and photographs of the French country side to his Facebook page.
The international media have also walked away from the case with nothing to report while the outcome of the first appeal to region 8 is being considered by the judges.
There has been no news or press release from the men’s legal team, Andy Hall’s organisation Migrant Workers Rights Network have given no clue as to how the men are coping having spent one year on death row and now being into their 3rd year of incarceration.
While we do know the boys were receiving humanitarian visits from a handful of supporters, we also know all visits from anybody other than immediate family have been stopped.
While we know that the vast majority of those who have followed the case continue to believe in the men’s innocence we have no idea who is still supporting Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo. With Robert Holmes missing, possibly in Cambodia with Mr Yarwood’s money, Andy Hall on sabbatical in France and a silent Legal team it is unclear where this case will end up. The only thing we do know for certain is that the now 23 year old Burmese men, who left their country to provide an income for their mothers, still sit, day in day out on death row in one of the world’s most notorious prisons pinning their hopes on the first appeal that could be a week, a month or a year away in its conclusion, and perhaps a second and final appeal to the Supreme Court that could be many years in coming.